A Giant Zambian Mole-rat pup born on June 22 is the first surviving second generation of this species at the Peoria Zoo.
The most notable feature of Mole-rats is a pair of large incisors that lie outside the mouth. Giant Mole-rats excavate their burrows by biting at the soil with their incisors, pushing it under their bodies with their forefeet and kicking it backward with their hind feet.
Peoria Zoo was the first recorded institution in the United States to exhibit this species. Peoria Zoo and its partners imported Giant Zambian Mole-rats from South Africa for exhibition and research in the United States in 2006. Since their arrival zoo staff has been working to find a management technique to ensure breeding success.
Ashley, the pup’s mother, born in 2008, was the first offspring ever to survive at the Peoria Zoo.
At six weeks of age the Mole-rat pup weighs less than one ounce (24g), but will grow to weigh more than 1.3 pounds (600g). Pups have dark brown fur, while adults are buff -colored.
See more about Mole-rats below the fold.
There are nine known species of Mole-rats in Africa. Mole-rats are highly social and live in colonies containing a single reproductive female, breeding males, and a number of non-breeding workers.
Mole-rats are built for life underground. Their streamlined shape and short legs enable them to move easily in narrow burrows. Their eyes are small and can probably only detect light and dark. Even though their ears are also small, Zambian Giant Mole-rats have a relatively sophisticated level of communication using a variety of squeaks, grunts, and growls. Their hair is thick and short, an asset when moving in the burrow. Because Mole-rats live in dark burrows, the sense of touch is important to them. Stiff, tactile hairs scattered over the body act in the same way as the whiskers of a cat.
The first detailed field study on this highly adaptable species was published in 2001.